It's amazing and wonderful that so many people have already added their memories of Jeremy to this thread. I can't believe I'm sitting here barely 24 hours after we first heard the terrible news, trying to compose my thoughts and I already feel like I'm behind the curve due to this tremendous outpouring of love and sorrow...
I first met Jeremy on April 22, 2000, at the Triscuits show in Keene, New Hampshire. The night before had been one of the most powerful experiences of my life, playing with the trio at the Middle East in Boston. I knew Jeremy's name from Discuss and when I got to the show in Keene people started telling me that he was there and he would like to meet me.
Now, that was a seriously weird period of my life, and one I've never really discussed publicly before. Starting on that day for the next month or so I got a tiny taste of what it's like to live your life in the public eye the way the guys in the band do, and it wasn't exactly fun...a lot of people who previously didn't give a rat's ass who I was were suddenly trying to be my friend because a little bit of the band's well-earned fame had temporarily rubbed off on me...and then many of them just as quickly forgot who I was when my fifteen minutes were over. But that strange month was also the beginning of a few great friendships that lasted long after my little time in the spotlight was done, and my relationship with Jeremy is foremost among them.
So that day in Keene, this straight-looking guy comes bounding up to me with his hand outstretched and a grin across his face, introduces himself, and congratulates me. He had a million questions to ask, and clearly wasn't gonna rest until he knew exactly, in excruciating detail, what it was like to be on stage with my (and his) favorite band.
At first I wasn't sure what to make of him. I had only just met him and he was acting like we were old friends. I was in a politically very sensitive situation and I guess my own cynicism had me constantly sizing up the people around me, trying to figure out what their angle might be. But I spent a lot of the show with him and as we continued to discuss music and ourselves I realized that he didn't have any angle at all...he was just genuinely excited for me, someone he'd never met before, to the point where it almost felt like he'd been the one onstage instead of me.
He was (god, I can't believe I'm using the past tense :( ...) the kind of guy who was always eager to meet and get to know anybody. It wasn't just me; EVERYBODY was Jeremy's old friend the moment they met him. Over the years I would see it happen again and again. He just loved knowing people and talking to them...with Jeremy you never had to make awkward small talk about the weather or your job. Somehow, whether it had been six hours or six months since I'd seen him last, there was always a real conversation waiting to happen...he had a way of cutting efficiently through the bullshit of normal social interaction and getting immediately to what was real: who people really were, what was really going on in their heads and in their lives, whatever was really important. In retrospect I'm extremely grateful for that because I can say at least that in the time I knew him that words were never minced and punches were never pulled...that we always made the most of our time together, and built a real relationship that went way beyond "that guy I hang out with at shows." From what I've read about him here and elsewhere, it sounds like many, many others can say the same, which I think is a powerful testimony of the kind of guy Jeremy was and the love he had for everyone around him.
A week later I hung out with Jeremy again at the show in Philly, and we stayed at the same hotel afterwards, which is where I learned about the crazy bastard's GODDAMN SOCKS, which I can't believe no one else has mentioned here.
Jeremy wore a new pair of socks every single day. Seriously. I saw him sitting there on the bed in that Econolodge with an 18-pack of white athletic socks, and I made some crack about overpacking for his weekend trip to Philly. He replied, in his ever-cheery, matter-of-fact way, "I wear a new pair of socks every day." The thing about Jeremy was that he always had such a big smile on his face that it was really hard to tell whether he was being serious with you or pulling your leg. So I just sort of stood there. Obviously he'd been through this experience a lot of times before, and dealt with people's weird looks, so he had his well-practiced explanation ready.
"Look," he said. "Doesn't it feel great when you put on a brand-new pair of socks for the first time?" ...to which I of course agreed. "So, this is my vice. I'm lucky enough to make a little bit of money at my job, and this is how I choose to indulge myself. It's cheaper than smoking, and it doesn't hurt me or anyone else." I couldn't deny that he was making sense. And of course he anticipated the next logical question: OK, but isn't it a little wasteful? (which, when you think about how wasteful almost all of us are in our lives, is kind of silly, but I think everyone always asked just because they were so shocked by the whole thing that they couldn't think of what else to say) And of course he was eager to reply that in fact it was not: he KEPT every single pair of socks after he was done with them, because he felt bad throwing them away. Someday, he would get around to giving them all to Goodwill, so that thousands of people out there could enjoy once-worn white socks at a fraction of the retail cost.
The temptation to reach for metaphors at times like these can often be too great. But I think that really does say a lot about the kind of person Jeremy was: for better or (sometimes, anyway :) for worse, he was always thinking. There was an inspiring intentionality to the way he lived his life...every aspect, thought and action had been carefully thought through, and he always had an argument ready to defend them. I didn't always agree with all of his choices or his views, but at least you could rely on Jeremy to really mean what he said and did, which is a rare characteristic in this day and age, and one I found almost boundlessly admirable.
Jeremy and I were both on our high school's debate teams, and I'm humbled to say that he was able to go much farther with it than I ever did: he participated in national competitions, which was clearly a source of great pride to him even a decade later. When he first told me that it made so much sense that I was shocked I hadn't guessed it in the first place. He had a debater's mind: he was always prepared to justify every little thing he did, whether anyone else cared to challenge them or not. And, like me, he loved to argue just for the sake of arguing...he would never give an inch until he absolutely had to, and took great joy in winning debates on endurance alone. He found an endearingly childlike satisfaction in the moment when whoever had dared oppose him would, with an exasperated sigh, cave and say the two magic words: "you're right." (whether they really meant them or not :)
For that reason Jeremy and I always loved to talk politics, and during this last war he kept my inbox full of more stories than I could ever hope to read about it, from every possible point on the political spectrum. Frequently he'd even call me because he'd just read some story that was so mindblowing that I had to go read it RIGHT THAT SECOND: email just wasn't gonna be fast enough. Once again, I was awed by the lengths to which he would go to form a conclusion...he wasn't going to settle his mind one way or the other until he had considered every relevant fact available to him. When I got into public skirmishes about the war, Jeremy's presence kept me honest, because I knew if I made the slightest factual error or if any part of my argument was not totally sound he'd be there to tear it apart. It was frustrating that he wasn't always on my side, but he earned my admiration all over again by channeling his thorough, meticulous nature into everything he could, even things he had no control over. I still don't understand how he could possibly be reading as much as he was while also holding down a job and raising a child...
And that brings me finally to the saddest, cruelest, most unfair part of this inexplicable loss. Jeremy was the first one of my friends to have a kid, and the joy his baby daughter brought him was so infectious as to be overwhelming...as effusive and gregarious as he always was, it got turned up 500% as soon as Skylar was born. Looking back, the last contact I had with Jeremy was an email about how much Skylar, even at 6 months, already seemed to be loving and consuming music as eagerly as her father ever did. It's a tragedy in the fullest sense of the word that she will never know the man I did, but it still brings me peace to know that the final months of Jeremy's life were, in his words, by far the happiest. I only hope that someday down the road I'll be able to meet Skylar and see her father's mischevious twinkle in her eye. Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed.Kira Pladl
Jamie and David Wainland